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By Sarah Hapgood

They had no intention of staying any significant length of time at Mud Island. They thought that Umbert might be pleased to find that other members of his own race had survived The Sweats, and although he was, he said he felt no particular kinship with the islanders.

“The New Continent is just too big for that”, he said “And I’m from way over the other side of it”.

He knew very little about the archipelago, other than that in his time it had been a military base.

“I don’t think there was much here before that”, he said.

“And it doesn’t appear as though there’s much here now”, said Adam.

“What the hell are they living on?” said Julian “There’s no vegetation on this island. No natural food source. There doesn’t even seem to be a fresh-water supply”.

“Roddy says there’s a well up at the Citadel”, said Adam “But as for the food. No I’m baffled too. There’s no fruit or crops. They must eat an awful lot of fish that’s all I can say”.

The plan was that they would stay just for a couple of days to exercise the animals on solid land, and for Kieran to attempt an exorcism at Roddy’s cottage. Roddy paid a couple of trips over to the galleon, and seemed to be mesmerised by what he saw. His own way of life had been so basic in the extreme for so long that he was impressed by even the Indigo-ites fairly simple way of living. They had dug out an old sofa from under a heap of tarpaulin up on the main deck, and he even went into raptures about that. He called the whole ship “paradise”.

“Well we’re very proud of it of course”, said Adam “And she’s served us very well, but … paradise?”

“Paradise”, said Roddy, as though confirming an indisputable fact “There’s no standing on ceremony here is there? No yes sir, no sir, all the time”.

“I’m sure Bardin would relish being called Sir”, said Adam “But we are not going to start indulging him on that one!”

“That old fool’s not moving in here”, said Julian, a few minutes later, when Roddy had been carted off on a guided tour below deck.

“He’s shown no particular interest in moving in”, said Adam “And I doubt we’ve got room for one more anyway”.

“Good”, said Julian “I don’t want him around anymore than can be helped. Something too negative about him. He’s the sort of person who seems to attract bad luck. Be like having an albatross following us”.

Bardin had relaxed the night-watches whilst they were in port (if such a grandiose term could be applied to Mud Island’s derelict jetty and disused harbour), a decision he was soon to regret. The following morning, after his conversation with Julian about Roddy, Adam went up on deck to get some fresh air before starting on the breakfasts.

He was somewhat put out to find a very suspicious-looking character prowling about on the poop-deck. This man was as broad as he was tall, with a bald head, and a blazing look in his eye. When he heard Adam’s footsteps on the main deck he turned and glared down at him.

“What are you doing?” Adam asked.

“None of your fucking business”, the man growled “Mud Island is not your fucking property”.

“And this ship isn’t yours”, said Adam “So I feel entitled to ask what you are doing here”.

For a brief second the man looked totally nonplussed. He clearly wasn’t used to anyone turning the tables on him. What followed was a rather extraordinary and unedifying scene. The man suddenly started hopping about as though he had been afflicted with a bad case of St Vitus’ Dance, whilst at the same time holding his ribs as if overcome with mirth.

“Ooh! Ooh!” he roared “Is that all you’ve got to worry about, me being here? You must have a fucking charmed life, if that’s all you’ve got to fucking worry about!”

As this rather depressing monologue looked as if it could go on for quite some time, Adam decided to cut in.

“What do you want?” he said.

“Ooh ooh ooh!” the man started up again, now resembling some monstrously overgrown child having a foot-stamping fit of petulance “Oh I’m supposed to be fucking scared am I? You think you’re fucking frightening me do you? Oh oh oh I’m so fucking scared, oh look, I’m so fucking frightened!”

“I’m not trying to frighten you”, said Adam, whilst at the same time thinking that he did seem to be succeeding all the same, and with remarkably little effort involved on his part.

“Well that’s good!” the man screamed, after a small nonplussed pause “Because you’re fucking not! You’re not fucking frightening me, so you needn’t think you are! You and your fucking charmed life. You’re having a fucking laugh you are, a fucking laugh. Not got enough to fucking worry about that’s your trouble!”

Adam calmly walked up to the poop-deck. The man finally stopped ranting and stared at him, like a cornered animal. Adam walked up to him and punched him hard in the pelvic area. The man gave an animal-like growl of pain and doubled up. Adam punched him again and the man slumped to the floor of the deck.

“I thought I heard shouting up here”, said Hillyard, appearing on deck, followed by Ransey “Ad, what the hell’s going on?”

The thug was now crouched on all fours, and was whimpering and cringing at the same time.

“He was being rather silly”, said Adam, aware that he was feeling a lot calmer than he probably looked “Told me to mind my own business, that the island wasn’t our property, whilst at the same time trespassing on our ship. He really hadn’t thought it through!”

Roddy came out to the end of the jetty to see what all the commotion was about, and was roped in to help escort the fallen thug from the premises.

“Is he from up at the Citadel?” Ransey asked.

“There’s always been something a bit odd about him”, was Roddy’s rather doleful reply.

“Is he like some sorta henchman of theirs then?” said Joby, when Adam joined him, Bengo and Bardin in the galley.

“Well I can’t imagine they keep him around for decorative purposes”, said Adam “Nor for his phenomenal intellect. In fact I can’t remember the last time I had a conversation with somebody quite so incredibly stupid!”

“And you punched him?” said Bengo, who was quite starry-eyed with awe.

“That was a bit over-the-top if you ask me”, said Bardin, spiffily “A slap round the face to bring him to his senses would have been better”.

“With respect, I doubt a slap would have had much impact on a hulking great brute like that, old love”, said Adam “And he had no senses in the first place to get reacquainted with!”

“Stop talking cobblers, Bardy”, said Bengo “A silly little slap? Huh, must be your girly side coming out!”

“Nah, it’s gotta be punches on a great big jerk like that”, said Joby.

“Having said that though”, said Adam “I did keep hoping you clowns would appear and do one of your fish-slapping routines on him. I think that would have been rather amusing!”

“Of course, bang goes any chance of us passing ourselves off as a peaceful religious order now!” said Julian.

“Oh don’t go all sanctimonious on me”, said Adam “You would have done the same in my position, so you needn’t try pretending you’re Mahatma Gandhi all of a sudden. Anyway, I thought you couldn’t wait to be gone from here?”

“I can’t!” said Julian “But it seems your little blue-eyed boy isn’t in any hurry to finish his blasted exorcism!”

“Ah now there I might have some good news for you”, said Adam “Patsy says he thinks the exorcism might be a waste of time”.

“How’s that?”

“He thinks whatever has happened there in Roddy’s cottage is just too extreme to be cured”.

“What’s he playing at?” said Julian “That’s not like him at all”.

“I know”, said Adam “He just came out with it this morning. I haven’t had a chance to probe him any further yet”.

“Get him in here”, said Julian, and then as Adam was leaving the room shouted “Hey, the pelvic punch, I suppose you learnt that in prison, the first time round?”

“I really can’t remember, old love”, said Adam “For all I know I could have picked it up at school!”

There was no time for Julian to cross-examine Kieran though because Roddy paid them a call during breakfast, and said that “that lot up at the Citadel” would like it if someone from the galleon would pay a call on them. This message managed to be both diffident and arrogant at the same time. No mention was made of the ranting foul-mouthed thug.

“We were planning on leaving the island later today”, said Bardin, reluctant to admit that his curiosity was piqued by the inhabitants at the Citadel.

“They know about Brother Kieran doing the blessing on my place”, said Roddy “They want to know if he’ll do one up there. They’ve been having trouble you see. Some kind of poltergeist outbreak I think”.

“It’ll have to be a quick visit”, said Bardin “We are still intending to leave”.

Kieran was strangely unbothered by this invitation. In fact he even went back to bed after breakfast, and didn’t show any inclination to get up again in a hurry.

“What’s up?” said Hillyard “You look like you’ve got one of your old depressions coming on”.

“Not at all, I’m fine”, said Kieran “I just don’t see that a blessing will help”.

This was a truly extraordinary statement. Kieran usually took the line that a blessing was the answer to everything.

“Well I think Bardin’d like you to come”, said Hillyard.

“Then I’ll come”, said Kieran, still in the same unsettlingly calm way.

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